The war of words between Rome and Paris is heating up.
Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani on Friday said there are “no excuses” for French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin’s criticism of Italy’s migration policy on Thursday. Tajani canceled a planned visit to Paris over the remarks.
“This attack leaves one dumbfounded. It’s a clap of thunder in a quiet sky, an outpouring of gratuitous insults,” Tajani told Corriere della Sera in an interview.
Darmanin “offended all Italians, in addition to the government and the prime minister,” Tajani said, adding the comments were “a stab in the back from a prominent member of the French government.”
The Italian foreign minister called off a working dinner with his French counterpart Catherine Colonna on Thursday — just a few hours before their scheduled meeting in Paris.
Earlier on Thursday, Darmanin told RMC radio that the “far-right” Italian government led by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni was “incapable of resolving migration problems.”
Before Tajani canceled his trip, the French foreign ministry tried to douse the fire by issuing a statement stressing that Paris wants to work with Rome “in a spirit of solidarity” on managing migration flows in the Mediterranean.
But the French statement was “not sufficient,” Tajani said in the Corriere della Sera interview. “There are no excuses — even though one notes both dissatisfaction and embarrassment on the French side about what happened,” he said.
“We are a great country, democratic, a founding member of the European Union with a history going back millennia,” Tajani added. “We demand respect — the same respect that we have for our allies.”
This spat is the latest between the Italian and French governments.
Last November, Paris sparked Meloni’s fury after it froze plans to take in 3,500 refugees as part of the EU’s migrant-relocation mechanism, and announced border reinforcements, after Italy redirected a migrant boat to dock in Toulon.
In February, Meloni lashed out at an EU leaders summit in Brussels, blasting her French counterparts for not inviting her to a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Paris.
But relations appeared to improve later that month, following Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi’s visit to Darmanin in Paris in February, as the two governments announced they would carry out joint missions to North African countries.